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Rob Horowitz: Millennials Coming of Age

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

 

Rob Horowitz is hopeful that Millennials' contributions to renewing the American Dream will be consequential and overwhelmingly positive.

If you want to know where our politics and culture are heading the most important group to look at are young adults—the people that will do the most to shape our future as they come of age. This is especially the case if there are a lot of them as evidenced by the large imprint of the post-World War II Baby Boom generation, still having an outsized impact as the oldest of them move into retirement (All you need to know is the Rolling Stones remain at the top of the list of largest earning touring bands in the world).

The same is nearly certain to be the case for today’s young adults, members of the 77 million strong Millennial generation—a generational cohort of Baby Boomer proportions. The impact of this generation has already been felt in the last two Presidential elections as young people voted in much larger numbers total than previous generations and in much higher percentages for the Democratic candidate, serving as a big slice of the winning difference for Barack Obama. Now, that the oldest members of this generation are in their early 30’s and the overwhelming majority of Millennials are at least of voting age, their influence is only going to increase. An in-depth report on Millennials as compared to other generations—released by the Pew Research Center and based on recent polling—provides at least some directional guidance for how this growing influence may play out.

Millennials by the numbers

This poll confirms that despite the tough economic hardships many Millennials have experienced due to entering the workforce during the Great Recession, they remain strongly Democratic in voting preference and more liberal than previous generations. As the Pew report states, “Over the past 10 years Millennials have remained the most liberal and least conservative of the four generations, and the only generation in which liberals are not significantly outnumbered by conservatives.” Further, more than half of Millenials support a bigger government providing more services, while less than 4-in-10 favor a smaller government providing fewer services. They are the only generation which gives a bigger government majority support.

These findings—consistent over time—bode well for Democrats. Still, there is room for Republicans to make inroads as half of Millennials identify as independents and only 31% say there is a great deal of difference between the political parties. This is a much lower percentage seeing big differences between the parties than members of Gen X, Boomers or the Silent generation. Of course, it is possible that Millennials’ political views will shift over time: although if past history is a guide, while there are certainly many cases of opinions changing on specific issues, for most people their over-all political outlook remains relatively fixed.

More broadly, Millennials are in the words of the Pew Report “detached from institutions” –or at least more detached than previous generations. For example, nearly 3-in-10 indicate, “they are not affiliated with any religion, a much higher percentage than previous generations. And only 26% of adult Millennials are married—a much lower percentage than previous generations at similar points in the lifecycle.

The first generation to grow up with the new online technology, Millennials are the most socially networked, with more than 8-in-10 on Facebook and a median friend count of 250, according to Pew. They are the driving force behind the growing importance of social media in election and issue campaigns. Generally speaking, Millennials are distrustful of big institutions and skeptical of charismatic leaders, preferring the ‘wisdom of crowds.’

Optimistic about the future

Still, Millennials remain optimistic about our nation’s future and their personal economic futures—more optimistic than the older generations. As Millennials age, form more lasting attachments and breathe new life into old institutions, shaping them to be more in line with their values and communications style as well as inventing institutions of their own, their full impact will be felt. Once more members of this most educated, most diverse, outsized and truly community-minded generation find their footing, I am convinced that their contributions to renewing the American Dream and tackling the big challenges ahead will be consequential and overwhelmingly positive. Or at least I sure hope so—our future depends on it.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

Related Slideshow: 14 To Watch in Central Mass in 2014

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Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, EcoTarium will soon house one of the most unique exhibits in the country.  A team of researchers led by Robert L. Ryan, professor of landscape architecture and regional planning at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, along with Worcester's Clark University and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, will integrate the science of urban systems into a new "City Science" exhibit.

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Next City Manager

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Michael Carter-Williams

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Eric Dickson

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Brad Wyatt

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Neema Hakim

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Joseph Corazzini

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Victoria Waterman

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Central Rock Gym

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Lynette Paczkowski

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With goals of serving as a platform for women to share their voice on issues relating to the region's vitality, connecting with women through social and educational events, and providing opportunities for self-enrichment, the YPWA's esteemed found was recently named a 2013 Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Star.

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